Review: Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries by Elizabeth MacLeod

bonesneverliePublished by Annick Press
Released February 4, 2013
156 pages
Where I got it: E-galley received from publisher via NetGalley
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Description (from publisher):

What killed King Tut at such a young age? Was Napoleon poisoned? How did an entire Maya royal family die? Did Anastasia survive the massacre of the Russian royal family? Thanks to modern crime-solving techniques, we now know the answers to these and many other of the most puzzling questions about the demise of historical figures.

Seven true stories that read like thrilling whodunits lead kids into the fascinating world of forensics. The author starts each chapter by setting the scene, whether it’s deep in the heart of the Guatemalan rain forest or the French court during the revolution. The suspense builds as circumstances around a royal figure’s death or disappearance are described. The only thing missing is information about what actually happened! To solve that mystery, investigators have relied on a variety of tools: autopsies, fingerprinting, dental records, even insects. Modern techniques include DNA testing and medical imaging. But most of all, deductive reasoning is the key to solving each mystery.

MacLeod describes in clear and accessible fashion how the various scientific tools are used. Dozens of photos set the historical context for each story, while others show examples of the science used to uncover the truth.

Complete with time lines, sidebars, glossary, index, and suggestions for further reading, this is a must-have for any kids who love mysteries, murder, and suspense.

Forensic science has been cool for years now. From CSI to Dexter, being able to solve crimes based on the small details and evidence at the scene is a subject of fascination for many people. Bones Never Lie caters to younger fans of forensic science, as well as those who are interested in some of history’s mysteries. There are plenty of illustrations, and the extra bibliographic information will be helpful for any kids that are really into the mysteries and want to delve further.

I actually learned some things from this book. I’d never heard of the mystery behind the King of Thailand, Ananda Mahidol. Three were executed for his death, but it is possible that they were merely scapegoats. Also interesting was the DNA testing of a mummified heart said to have belonged to Louis XVII of France. King Tut, the Man in the Iron Mask, and Anastasia are all also under consideration.

While these case studies are good for showcasing investigative methodology, often the cases are too old for any sort of real conclusion to be reached. I found this to be disappointing, but I’m not sure if young readers will also be disappointed or will merely be excited at the mystery of it all. I think this book serves as a nice introduction for the curious, but they’ll be left wanting more.

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